You’ve probably heard that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. According to this article, that’s not quite true. If you’re going for the lowest common denominator smile - a barely recognizable and minimum effort smile - one that you’d give to your preacher at his third dad joke in five minutes… you may be surprised to learn that you’re exerting yourself more to do that than to mildly frown in disapproval - “10 muscles to smile, and six muscles to frown.”
Most of the time, however, it takes more effort to frown.
Which seems evident in our society these days. Everyone is frowning. People’s faces should have abs - six pack faces.
I’ve heard it called RBF - resting bitchy face. It’s the look of sheer animosity and hatred for small animals that seems to descend on your face without your awareness as you read, work on your computer or are engaged mentally for a period of time.
Jeff Noble - "Notes from the Trail" is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and encourage the writer consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
It would be odd, I think, for such moments instead to result in a widely stretched Joker face. Holy frown, Batman! I think an RBF would be preferable to that.
Time to smile
As you look around today, you’ll notice a lot of six-pack faces. Well developed, facial flexing frowners. Most folks don’t even know they’re doing it.
That’s why you’re needed. What would it look like for you to be a Stealth Ninja Smile Maker? A Mouth Corner Raiser? A Smile Magician? Whatever you call it (leave your label in the comments), embrace the mission of Smile.
When I think of things that seem to provoke a smile, I think of babies and little kids (at their best). Sometimes, I confess, I smile at parents struggling with defiant kids - probably smiling in relief that I’m past that stage. I was at a restaurant recently, waiting on our orders in a chair near the register. A family was placing their order at the counter. Before I knew it, I was being interrogated by their children (their parents didn’t notice). A 4-5 year old and a 3-4 year old began plying me with questions.
“What are you doing here?”
“What are you going to eat?”
“Do you like my helicopter?” (the little boy had a bag full of toys, and began to take them out one at a time to show me)
“I can do somersaults. Do you want to see?”
The dad turned around and quickly intervened, apologizing with, “I’m sorry they’re disturbing you. They’re not usually so ‘friendly’” with people.”
I assured him that I’d enjoyed the conversation. Internally, I was celebrating because I’ve had a knack in the past of involuntarily making kids cry. I haven no idea why. But this moment seemed to be another milestone in my journey of kids suddenly liking me.
As they walked to their table (the little girl looked back and waved vigorously at me), I realized I was… smiling. Beaming, actually.
And that lift of my mouth corners seemed to be connected to tendons that also pulled the lever on my heart heater. It was just a warm moment.
So whether it’s kids or puppies or memes or unboxing your Amazon order, we all know the experience of finding ourselves unconsciously smiling in response to life. I’d like to encourage you today to be someone’s smile stimulus.
Compliment someone. Tell a dad joke (they will be required to use 10 muscles). Give a gift. Encourage someone.
Better yet, leave a smile bomb.
What in the world is a smile bomb? It’s when you leave something somewhere that will provoke a smile in someone later. You can do this all kinds of ways. Write something compelling and post it. Paint something beautiful and share it. Make a movie that inspires. Take a picture that will cheer someone. (Have you ever noticed that when people look at pictures of themselves laughing that they involuntarily smile?)
These are smile bombs.
Prepare it. Light the fuse. And step away. Let the delight explode later. You don’t have to see it. It’s worth giving someone a smile anonymously. It’s like leaving a joy landmine for the soul
One strange smile-inducing mirth mine is the painted rock. I have no idea who does these things, but I’ve found a few
On occasion, these provoke a smile for me. More often, to be honest, I’m left wondering who came up with the whole inspirational rock routine? Is it because they were no longer good pets that these rocks were painted up and then abandoned in the wild?
Seeing more of these would definitely make me smile though…
Unless it blinked. Could you imagine seeing rocks with little eyeballs along your walk and then look back and seeing them watching you??? (Ok, sorry, I digress. Don't stone me… See, there goes your 10 facial muscles again! You’re welcome.)
Answer the call
Let someone’s RBF today be your reminder to be a smile stimulus. Be a smile magician. Whether you’re overt or stealthy, give people’s faces a rest from frowning, and reveal their smiles. They’ll be glad you did.
How Many Muscles Does It Take to Smile? by Tom Scheve on HowStuffWorks, April 8, 2021
Wonderful article and SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO needed these days,,, What makes me smile,, my children, my grandchild,, soon to be grandchildren can make me grin like a fool!!!! Or like the Joker I guess, in your terms,, haha,,, seriously though I live with pain every single day of my life,, and many other health issues, so every day is a challenge to smile, but when my grandchild is with me, my husband says my whole face lights up, and my whole demeaner changes... Children,, yes,,, that is why I worked in preschool/primary school age group for many decades,,, little kids make me smile like crazy,,, I LOVE their enthusiasm, their unbridled joy, and uninhibited energy,, their hilarious stories,,, their desire to be seen, and laughed with,, I created and coached a preschool/primary age soccer program for nearly 10 years, and no matter how badly my body hurt at the beginning of a soccer day, the kiddo's always made it better... I love the way they ask questions,, or say Miss Jamie watch me,, watch me,, watch me. !!!! Yah,, I love kids.. And I collect rocks,, have my whole life, and I have many with partial bible verses on them,,, I love the rock in the picture that says HOPE, because it gives hope in dealing with chronic pain. My husband can make me smile,, in our old age we have fallen into a comfortable routine with eachother,,, and joke more with each other these days,,, I have a feeling the Lord is preparing me for him to retire a year from now,,, SMILE!!! Wink Wink!!! And YOU Jeff my cuz from the South, can make me smile... I love your humor,, it makes me think of my funny Uncle Gayle!!! When I think of Grandpa Smith,, I smile through my tears because I miss him and cant wait to be with him again in Glory.. But seriously,, for the past couple of years, Ive been consciously trying to remember when I am running errands or out in public, to smile at people,, and Ive had wonderful experiences of people actually smiling back,,, and stopping if people want to engage in conversation with me,,, I am not in that much of a hurry, that I cant stop and engage with someone, and those interactions can make me smile,, the thought that I could bring a little light into someone elses life,, that make me smile.. ministering to a friend makes me smile,, , Just the other day, I was in a Kwik Trip, midmorning, so after the morning coffee rush, and an older gentleman was getting coffee as well, and all of a sudden he starts telling me that he is working harder in retirement then he did in 40 years working 60 hour weeks,,, and he went on to tell me how his alpaca's got out that morning and how he had to get them all back into the pasture and how each one has thier own funny personality,, he was so cute, and I am glad to stopped and took the time to listen and engage with him,, and just maybe I brought a smile to his face... So,,, yah, Im exercising those smile muscles much more these days,, then I ever used to.. Keep smiling cuz.
You make me smile... fantasy football thief, frozen underwear, removing small rocks from volleyball shaft, haircut on the sidewalk, violent gastro stories, going to the fortune teller on Harry Hines, video games, and finally the recipient of the best fantasy football prank of all time! All these bring a big smile to my face! Thank you!